The other way this could have been titled is:
- SC Justices Found Challenged in Intellectual Honesty
Now, many people might not like the SC decisions in one respect or another, thinking that they are bad in terms of philosophy, political acumen, etc. It is another thing entirely to find them short on intellectual honesty. But let me ask you, how would you describe the following facts?
I located the following points made by a Supreme Court Justice, made before this week's DOMA decision. The following points are from the opinion of Justice S:
Petitioners... devote many pages of briefing to arguing that the term “X” should be defined with reference to the law of the State in which an Z proceeding takes place. See Brief for Petitioners 19–29; Brief for Respondent. These arguments, however, are inconsistent with our recognition in Holyfield that Congress intended the critical terms of the statute to have uniform federal definitions. See 490 U. S., at 44–45. It is therefore unsurprising, although far from unimportant, that the [rest of the court] assumes for the purposes of its analysis that Y is a [federal law] “X." [snip]
The [other side of the court] thereby transforms a statute that was intended to provide uniform federal standards for Z proceedings involving W and X into an illogical piecemeal scheme.
But it is incongruous to suppose that Congress intended a patchwork of federal and state law to apply in Z proceedings.
Would it surprise you to find that
X = "marriage"
Y = a person possibly falling under the term X
Z = federal law that defines X in a different way than state law does?
The Justice S goes on to insist on applying federal statue and its definition rather than state law and its definition.
So, what's the problem? This opinion was rendered back in the mists of antiquity, back when people were bigots and couldn't think their way out of a paper bag. Or a more recent (but hardly more modern) justice like Scalia, who ought to have been born 150 years ago anyway, right? Say, Justice S is Scalia, in favor of the federal definition of marriage under DOMA, right?
No, no, this opinion came out before Windsor vs DOMA. Then it came out ages ago, like in 1930 or something, right?
Well, no. S is Justice Sotomayor, who overturned DOMA. Instead, the above quotes came out Tuesday, in a case on child custody. In actuality,
X = "custodial parent"
Y = an American Indian who is a biological father who abandoned the mother during her pregnancy;
Z = custody proceedings.
The decision was handed down Tuesday, not Wednesday, and the case was "Adoptive Couple vs Baby Girl". The majority let state law overrule the federal law on the matter, the minority opinion was written as above by Sotomayor upholding federal law instead, including specifically the issue of piecemeal state-by-state different outcomes.
So the first irony, of course, is that this Sotomayer, only 24 hours earlier, could not find her way to let state law apply and supercede a federal law definition for what is, fundamentally a state matter as such (custody), citing piecemeal issues, and wanted federal law definition imposed; but with DOMA she overturned it and could not leave federal law in place on what are primarily the federal effects of a typically state law proceeding.
The second irony is that Scalia joined her dissent.
The third irony is that Justice Thomas disagrees with Scalia, something fairly uncommon, and that he even deigned to write a fulsome concurring opinion, which he tends to do even less. What is not surprising is that in his view, the Constitution does not give Congress authority to write this federal law, at least not in such a way as to supercede state law on the matter, because the only constitutional provision available is Indian Commerce, and custody proceedings are decidedly not commercial transaction.